When Putin's army invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, no one knew how the conflict was going to unfold.

The world looked on in horror as bombs rained down on Kyiv and Russian tanks rolled across the border.

Millions of Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes.

Southampton, like the rest of the UK, supported Ukraine from the very start.

Just days after the war erupted, thousands of residents stepped up to organise collections and send aid.

The former Toys R Us site became a hub to drop off essential items; businesses and charities rallied to arrange fundraisers and £33,000 was raised through Newsquest's There With Ukraine campaign, supported by Echo readers.

Daily Echo: Volunteers sorting donations at the Toys R Us site in March 2022Volunteers sorting donations at the Toys R Us site in March 2022

When the Home for Ukraine scheme was launched, Southampton also played its part in rehoming refugees.

But as the first anniversary of the war draws near, efforts have slowed down and donations are dipping.

News of the Ukraine war has been overshadowed by issues like the cost of living crisis (partly caused by the conflict itself) and a wave of strikes among public sector workers.

The tragic events in Turkey and Syria have also seen residents' efforts redirected to help the victims of the earthquake.

However, while Ukraine might not be at the forefront of people's minds as it was this time last year, the war is very much ongoing.

This week, the Daily Echo will feature a series of special reports reflecting on the impact of the conflict on Southampton.

And exploring the issues faced by Ukrainians living in the city and the ways we can all play a part going forward.

Donations and hosts

Hope Now, a Southampton-based charity, has been housing families whose homes have been destroyed during the war.

With a base in the city of Cherkasy, three hours south of Kyiv, the charity sends 44 boxes from Southampton with food, clothes, and medication every fortnight.

The aid is then distributed by 57-year-old Misha Vishermiskyy and his team to families and vulnerable people on the ground, some of whom live in their base.

Daily Echo: Queues of people at Hope Now's base in Cherkasy waiting for boxes of aid. Inset: Misha Vishermiskyy Queues of people at Hope Now's base in Cherkasy waiting for boxes of aid. Inset: Misha Vishermiskyy (Image: Jon Budgell)

On one day alone, Misha had over 750 people come to the charity's base for support.

He estimates to have helped around 120,000 people since the invasion began.

Chief executive, Jon Budgell, based in Southampton, led the team in managing the sea of donations received in the early days of the war.

The 71-year-old said: “The first couple of months, the generosity was just amazing. I had people bringing stuff in every day. Our offices were full of aid.”

He added: “People were turning up on the door saying 'I brought some aid for you'. And I was saying, 'I don't think we can take any more for the moment'.”

However, since then, donations have dropped but the charity continues to send aid.

Meanwhile, Bridget Chapman, from Reset UK, has been working to help host families welcoming refugees.

The charity trains and supports volunteer hosts so they can help their guests settle into society.

Bridget praised the “amazing” generosity of the British people as over 115,000 Ukrainians arrived in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, as of February 14 this year.

She said: “There is an amazing story here of the generosity of people.

“It's a huge ask to have somebody in your home for a minimum of six months and yet this scheme has enabled over 100,000 people to come to arranged accommodation in the UK.

“People have told me [how] they found hosting Ukrainians, [and] a phrase I've heard many times is life-changing.”

However, Bridget says the charity has more than 3,000 families needing to be housed and only 100 hosts.

She is urging more people to come forward.

READ MORE: Ukrainian refugees in Southampton are at risk of being homeless 

She said: “We don't have enough hosts for the number of people [needing a home] because I think some people think that everybody who needed to leave Ukraine has left, which is far from the truth.”

She pointed out several factors that have contributed to the decline of hosts.

“There have been some really big things happening in the UK and in the world.

“Often Ukraine gets nudged out of the headlines for a while so people sometimes don't realise that it's still very much an issue and still, people need to come.

“The cost of living crisis has certainly been part of it, we've had three Prime Ministers over the last year.

“Then the Queen died, [and] the recent awful events in Turkey.”

'Don't forget about us'

Forty-nine-year-old Roman Shemeniuk helps send humanitarian aid from Southampton to his home country of Ukraine.

He works with a charity called ‘Ukraine in heart’, delivering aid to regions near the city of Zaporizhzhia.

He often drives to and from occupied areas witnessing tragic scenes on the ground.

Daily Echo: Trucks full of clothes, food and medication sent from the Toys R Us warehouse in Southampton Trucks full of clothes, food and medication sent from the Toys R Us warehouse in Southampton (Image: Roman Shemeniuk)

He said: “[It’s] very difficult work because bombs are always falling, and people are living in bomb shelters in long periods.

“It’s not normal and these are crazy conditions.”

He described watching people using candles to light their homes as millions spent Christmas without electricity, while others used fuel to power generators.

Daily Echo: People being given bags with food in ZaporizhzhiaPeople being given bags with food in Zaporizhzhia (Image: Roman Shemeniuk)

Last month, Roman visited his parents, niece and nephews in Lymington - the town they fled to after leaving Ukraine last June.

During his visit, he had an important message for people in the UK. 

He said: “We need assistance, the situation has changed over time.

“The first six months people were more active in helping [but] now every day is difficult [to] get aid and deliver aid.

“We have good friends in Southampton who are helping us, and [the people of the] UK are tired from this situation because they did so much.”

He added: “Let’s work together, don’t forget about the problem, we have war in the 21st century.

“If [people] have the opportunity to give then give, don’t forget about us.”